Recruiting and Retaining Top Women in STEM

January 11, 2019

In 2017, the talents of women remain deeply underrepresented in STEM fields around the United States. According to statistics from the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up 50 percent of the college-educated workforce in this country, yet make up only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce. Gender disparity in STEM fields is as relevant in North Carolina as it is nationally. The Triangle is widely known as a growing destination for STEM companies and jobs, with its top research universities, major health systems, global technology companies, new start-ups and the Research Triangle Park (RTP). In response to this, APCO is assisting the leading companies in the Triangle – including IBM, Fidelity Investments and Duke University –to formalize a Triangle Women in STEM initiative.

With some of the world’s top companies in biotechnology, energy, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and more, RTP is already a thriving hub for STEM professionals. While RTP sits just outside of the Raleigh city limits, this hub contains an eclectic group of diverse thinkers, yet still falters in the area of recruiting women in STEM fields. The main vision of Triangle Women in STEM is to make the Triangle region a preeminent destination for women in STEM fields through partnerships with industry leaders, universities, nonprofits and local governments. This vision invites coalescence around the group’s mission, which is to create an integrated ecosystem that engages, attracts, and supports women in STEM in their careers, education and personal pursuits.

APCO’s Raleigh office connected Triangle Women in STEM with APCO’s Washington Managing Director Lisa Ross, who has extensive experience working on women’s equality policies and initiatives.

Lisa keynoted the Triangle Women in STEM event hosted by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. The event brought together more than 150 women who were curious to hear more about Lisa’s experiences at the Department of Labor’s Glass Ceiling Commission, and the White House’s Office for Women’s Initiatives and Outreach. Shortly after Lisa was introduced, the mood of the room shifted from curiosity to admiration.

Lisa spoke of her inspiring rise as an African American woman through male-dominated federal office buildings. She guided the room through her ideas about how this group can approach cultivating, recruiting and retaining top talent, which encapsulates Triangle Women in STEM’s vision, mission and purpose. Most importantly, Lisa spoke of what she believes the initiative must do to retain talent:

  1. Love yourself and those you work with
  2. Believe in yourself and the initiative
  3. Live the goals of the initiative

Not only did Lisa deliver elegant remarks that inspired the room to “be all in,” she also left her audience wanting to know more. More than an hour after her keynote ended, Lisa still had a line of women waiting to talk to her and ask their questions. There was inspiration and excitement everywhere.

Through this kickoff event and Lisa’s keynote, the Triangle Women in STEM successfully gained momentum for their mission  and energized attendees to do their part to make the Triangle region a top destination for women in STEM. If you would like to get involved in the initiative, please feel free to reach out to us at

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